Vitter and Koch:A lesson in Who Runs this Nation

What people often miss in following the actions of government as reported in the media is the  banality of life in Washington.  Behind the scenes Congress plods along,its real workings mostly hidden from view.

Thanks to the Institute of Southern Studies, we have a crisp civics lesson in what really goes on in the form of a detiled account of how Congress,working as so often it does,with lobbyists in tow,set about delaying reforms that would protect the public from the carcinogins leaking out from the chemical formaldehyde.

Take a minute or so to  read this. You’ll see just how our democratic government actually works:

6/10/2011Date on which the Department of Health and Human Services released a report  classifying formaldehyde — a chemical used in the manufacture of consumer goods  including carpeting, plywood, personal care products and pharmaceuticals — as  “a known carcinogen”

1989Year in which the  Environmental Protection Agency first assessed the health risks of formaldehyde

1998 Year in which the agency first tried to update that assessment, only to be repeatedly stalled by industry and  and its allies in Congress: 1998

2004:Year in which Sen. James Inhofe  (R-Okla.) pressed the EPA to delay the revised assessment, despite preliminary  findings from a National Cancer Institute (NCI) study linking formaldehyde to  leukemia.

Amount in campaign contributions Inhofe received that  same year from Koch Industries, a major chemical manufacturer: $6,000

Number of pulp mills that Koch bought that same year from Georgia-Pacific, a leading formaldehyde producer and  plywood manufacturer: 2

2005: Year in which Koch bought all of  Georgia-Pacific

2006:Year in which the International  Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified formaldehyde as a known  carcinogen

2009:Year in which the NCI released a  study linking formaldehyde exposure to cancers of the blood and lymphatic  system

Increased risk of leukemia for  workers exposed to high amounts of formaldehyde, according to the NCI study:  78%

Increased risk of death from blood  cancers for highly exposed workers: 37%

2009 Year in which both the IARC and  National Toxicology Program concluded that formaldehyde exposure is linked to  leukemia

2009:Year in which Sen. David Vitter  (R-La.)  successfully delayed the formaldehyde assessment by  placing a hold on the nomination of a key EPA appointee to force the agency to  send its draft assessment to the National Academy of Sciences for review

Average cost of an NAS review:  $800,000 to $1,000,000

Amount that  Formaldehyde Council lobbyist Charles Grizzle personally donated to Vitter’s  campaign the same day he placed the hold on the EPA nomination: $2,400

The suggested donation to  attend a fundraising party thrown for Vitter by Grizzle after EPA agreed to send  its assessment to the NAS: $1,000

Amount that Vitter’s campaign  received in 2009 from companies that produce large amounts of formaldehyde waste  in Louisiana: about $20,500

Amount Vitter’s campaign  received that same year from companies with interests in formaldehyde  regulation: about $40,000

Rank of Monsanto’s plant  in Luling, La. among top U.S. emitters of formaldehyde pollution in 2009: 1

Rank of Angus Chemical’s plant in    La. among top U.S. emitters of formaldehyde pollution in 2009:  2

4/8/2011:Date on which the NAS released its  formaldehyde review, finding that the chemical irritates the eyes, nose and  throat and causes respiratory lesions and cancer of the nose and upper throat —  but not leukemia:

Amount the federal government spent  to purchase trailers for for Hurricane Katrina and Rita victims that were later  found to have dangerously high levels of formaldehyde: $2 billion

Percent of the 134,000 FEMA  trailers provided to Katrina and Rita victims estimated by the federal  government to have formaldehyde problems: 33

6/3/2011:Date on which Rep. Cedric Richmond  (D-La.) introduced legislation to create a health registry of people who were  provided with FEMA trailers between 2005 and 2009

2010:Year in which President Obama  signed a law establishing the first national standards for formaldehyde in  composite wood products such as plywood and particle board

2013 Year by which the U.S. will have  the most stringent standards for formaldehyde emissions in the work

This is a lesson in how government really works: not by mandating or reversing laws, but through the endless behind closed door dealing, so often fending off change for the better. In this case more than 20 years.We saw it in air pollution regulations where Robert Byrd (coal) and John Dingel (autos) succeeded for years in delaying the acceptance of emission controls. We saw it just recently in the credit card legislation,which in the name of reform,ended up raising rates for many people. And we saw it in health care where the insurance and pharmaceutical industries successfully fended off any serious reform. This is the Republic in action.

5 responses to “Vitter and Koch:A lesson in Who Runs this Nation

  1. I don’t doubt that the facts you present are true, but the impression you give the reader is bogus. The Koch brothers are small time. They don’t run DC. See where ‘Koch Industries’ ranks:

    Koch hysteria is a distraction.

  2. I wish you would provide Facebook and Twitter links so we can share your work.

  3. Elizabeth Rogers

    It may be that the Koch brothers are “small time” but they are backing an extremist agenda and extremist candidates, which allows these candidates to gain credibility and raise money from other sources more easily and thus makes them very dangerous in my view.

  4. Sorry. I don’t buy it. The fact is, there many players who are orders of magnitude more destructive than the Kochs — Wall Street, health care, defense, pro-Israel, etc. lobbies. Why all the focus on the Kochs? You have your explanation. In my view, Democrat party aligned astroturf dot orgs (MoveOn, TrueMajority, Common Cause, et al) use the Kochs as a distraction. 1500 ‘activist’ types can be rallied to chant slogans at the Kochs in Rancho Mirage, but 15 progressives can’t be bothered to protest Obama’s illegal attack on Libya, or continuing murder in AfPak, Iraq, Yemen, etc.

    The ultimate in cynicism was how the Democratic party managed to sell voting on the last (biggest ever) defense budget into a referendum on gay rights (DADT). And progressives mostly fell for it. Sorry Afghans, Pakistanis, Iraqis, but the careers of a statistically insignificant number of gays in the military who face discharge every year are more important than are the lives of your children.

    To sum up: The extent to which progs obsess over the Kochs (and trivial issues like DADT) is a tactic admission of irrelevance.

  5. Lloyd, it seems to me that you have your own agenda here. If you think that this influnce over a carcinogen is small time YOU need to look up the word Cancer and double check “Small Time”. I think any time a represenetive of the people can be bought off over a threat this big they are on the line of Criminal behavior. Why when someone makes a carcinogen and they know it, can’t they be charged with a crime? They’re causing death as sure as if they walked up and shot someone. The difference is it is a LONG,slow, painful death from cancer.

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